The donkey is one of the most popular of working animals in Africa, and perhaps the most important working animal in Kenya. Other working animals in the country include the ox and the camel, but these are not common as the donkey. Many people of almost all communities in Kenya own donkeys, which they use particularly for transportation of goods, farm produce and other items. In the farming sector, of particular importance, the small scale farmers rely heavily upon the donkey for transporting farm inputs and produce, pastures harvested for other livestock at home, fetching water for domestic use as well as firewood.

Among the pastoralist communities, the donkey is extremely important most especially to the women. Women stay at home as they watch the children while the men move with their livestock in search for pasture. Women use the donkey while going to fetch water and firewood over long distances. This makes the donkey a darling to them.

There is no doubt that the donkey is a very important animal helping sustain the livelihoods of a majority of the Kenyan population. However, there are concerns about how this important animal is treated and kept. Many people do not really care about the health and well-being of the donkey. This beast is often found wounded by whipping as their owners push them to work extra harder for extra ordinary results. This in turn lead to infections through wounds, traumatic injuries and sometimes death. This in turn affects the productivity of the animal and ultimately the livelihoods of many.

This post is particularly put down to inform on how best to keep your donkey healthy and happy. It’s important that close attention is paid to what the donkey is fed to ensure it is healthy and energetic so you rip the most benefits out of your donkey.

Donkey Nutrition

Donkey feeding and nutrition is one of those grey areas that leave owners groping in darkness because they do not know what to really feed their donkeys and there is very little information out there on this matter.

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One of the things that makes donkeys desirable for packing and pulling is their ability to survive on less food than camels and oxen. Donkeys seldom overeat but they can still become overweight. Most donkeys do fine on a good-quality hay or pasture and need their diets supplemented with grain only when working hard or being shown. The recommended ration of grain:hay is 4:5 for a working donkey. Water should be provided in plenty. This is the most important nutrient for the donkey.

Feding Options

For most donkeys, straw should form the majority of the diet. Straw should ideally be fed at floor level. It should be freely available at all times for animals with good dentition. Straw provides fiber and limited nutrients to the diet but might need supplementation to optimize protein and vitamin and mineral levels within the diet.

We recommend feeding good quality barley straw to donkeys with good teeth as it is high in fiber and low in sugar, and closely resembles what a donkey would eat in the wild. Constant access to straw will allow a donkey to eat to appetite without consuming too many calories and therefore risking putting on excess weight; excess weight carries associated risks such as laminitis.

Oat straw might be useful for old or underweight donkeys with good teeth as this usually has a slightly higher nutritional value than barley straw. Wheat straw is very fibrous and has lower energy values, but may be fed to young, healthy donkeys with good teeth.

Hay and haylage
Donkeys might require dietary supplementation with hay or haylage during when pregnant, lactating or growing, in order to supply extra energy. Hay or haylage for donkeys must be selected carefully as forage made for other livestock is often too rich and might lead to dietary upset or laminitis. Hay or haylage should be late-cut, high in fiber and low in sugar, and will be visibly coarse. Donkeys are able to thrive on hay or haylage with low-energy and high-fiber levels, but physical quality should not be compromised on.

Note: Silage is not suitable for feeding to donkeys because the moisture level is usually too high and it has a low pH and low fiber and high protein levels.

Basic tips to feeding donkeys

  • Feed little and often, and keep feeding times regular.
  • Any change in the feeding regime must always be carried out gradually — over two or three weeks.
  • Always feed according to the donkeys’ age, weight and temperament.
  • Avoid dusty or mouldy feeds.
  • Always provide plenty of clean drinking water available.
  • Access to an equine salt or mineral lick is advisable. We recommend Maclik Mineral Brick from Cooper K-Brands